Regional Implications of Redirecting Military Funds to Build the Wall

President Trump appears to be increasingly—which is to say, “maybe, definitely”—inclined to invoke a national emergency to build a $5.7 billion wall along the southern U.S. border. The president is reportedly considering funding the wall by reprogramming funds appropriated for the purpose of military construction projects. $5.7 billion, no trivial sum in general, is more than half the $10.3 billion that was appropriated to fund the military’s construction (MilCon) projects.

These projects run the gamut from overseas hangars for the new F-35A and special operations training facilities to middle schools for children of military families and parking lots. Some of these funds have certainly already been obligated since the MilCon appropriation was enacted, further diminishing the magnitude of available resources for reprogramming to fund the wall. How contracts for these projects would be affected by having the funding reassigned is unclear, as is the stability of future funding for those projects for which funding would be rescinded to fund the wall.

Separate from the disruption from reprogramming half of the Milcon budget on the fly are regional and political considerations. Military facilities are distributed throughout the nation and are hubs of economic activity that are zealously protected by the states’ representatives in Congress. When it comes to federal defense dollars spent in home districts and states, there are no hawks and doves, only competing advocates. Carving out half of the MilCon budget would likely meet strong resistance from the members of Congress whose states are slated to receive the $10.3 billion in FY209 MilCon funding.

The Table below presents the FY2019 MilCon appropriation by state. The amounts below only reflect about $5 billion of the overall funding, as the rest of the funding is devoted to projects for which the location was not specified or is overseas.

Milcon spending by state

An Excel spreadsheet detailing all funding is available here.